CULTURE

Kevin Spacey's New Holiday Video May Have Led to One Suicide Already

One of Spacey's Accusers killed himself the day after the video was released.

On Christmas Eve, disgraced (alleged) sexual predator and former actor Kevin Spacey released a new Holiday video on his Youtube channel.

In the video, titled "KTWK" (kill them with kindness), Spacey puts on the southern lilt of House of Cards' anti-hero Frank Underwood in a supposed plea for "more good in this world." The next day, one of his accusers—Ari Behn, 47—was found dead by suicide. If Spacey had known that one of the men whom he had (allegedly) assaulted was on the brink of taking his own life, would he have thought twice about releasing that video? Would he have felt any qualms about, once again, adopting the persona of the villainous President Underwood for a sequel to last year's notorious Christmas video?


KTWK www.youtube.com


In September, the anonymous massage therapist who alleged that Spacey had forced him to grab the actor's genitals died of cancer, and resulting in charges being dropped. Spacey and his legal team had vehemently denied the accusations, and now he was off the hook. What does it say then that Spacey opens his newest video, after stabbing wildly at the fire, with the claim, "It's been a pretty good year?"

In the case of Ari Behn—the author and former member of Norway's royal family who alleged that Spacey had groped him under the table at a Nobel Prize concert in 2007—it would be irresponsible to suggest that there was anything suspicious in his Christmas Day suicide. He had spoken openly about his struggles with loneliness and alcoholism—and his fear that he wouldn't live to see his three daughters grow up—but it seems like foolish optimism to imagine that he hadn't seen Spacey's newest video. And if his isolation and alcoholism were at all tied to the trauma of his encounter with Spacey, how painful would it be to see the man responsible putting on the act of a remorseless villain? How upsetting and surreal to hear the man who (allegedly) hurt you and so many others—yet continues to walk free—imploring his viewer with an ironic smile not to openly attack their enemies, but instead to "kill them with kindness."

ari behn

The video closes on that ominous line, with a stock iMovie musical sting called "Suspense Accent 07," leaving no doubt as to the intended effect. But what, other than cruelty, could be the motivation?

The character of Frank Underwood on House of Cards—before Spacey was ousted, and Robin Wright took over as the show's lead—was a man who used his cunning, his power, and his connections to avoid facing consequences for numerous crimes. More than once he killed off someone who had become a liability, and he made their deaths look like suicide. Why would a man who maintains his innocence—in the face of more than 30 accusations of sexual assault and misconduct—continue to align himself with this character whose arc is defined by evading justice? At worst, Spacey is flaunting his untouchable status. At best…what? If we assume that even one of his accusers is telling the truth, then releasing a video in which he pretends to be an impervious villain—and alludes to killing his enemies—is a heartless and horrifying act.

In February of this year Spacey's older brother, Randy Fowler, publicly called on the actor to accept responsibility for his (alleged) crimes and "take his punishment." He also expressed concern that Spacey would not be able to handle his (alleged) predation being exposed, saying, "I'm worried about him committing suicide. But then you have to think, 'Nah he's too narcissistic, he probably wouldn't do that.'" If Fowler is right about Spacey's state of mind, then a true narcissist might follow the logic of the patron saint of narcissism—Ayn Rand—who famously said before her death, "I will not die, it's the world that will end." From that perspective, even 30 suicides would pale in comparison to the tragedy of erasing the narcissist himself. From that perspective, the more Spacey can do to taunt his (alleged) victims—to make them feel helpless and hopeless—without directly implicating himself, the better.


ayn rand


There are probably more charitable interpretations, but if Spacey leaves this video up after the tragic suicide of Ari Behn, he doesn't deserve even that small charity. He should, of course, own up to any and all of his crimes—if he is guilty, plead guilty and face the consequences of his actions. But if he is too in denial, or too much of a coward to do that, the least he can do is stop rubbing his freedom in the faces of his (alleged) victims and their families—in the faces of every survivor of sexual assault who would rather not be reminded that sexual predators so rarely face justice.

If he is going to keep espousing his innocence in the courtroom, the least he could do is stop playing a villain in these bizarre holiday videos. And if he won't delete this video, then he isn't playing a villain at all. People's lives are on the line.

CULTURE

"Suicide Contagion" in K-Pop Highlights Korean Culture's Destructive Flaws

We need to change the narrative surrounding suicide.

James Jean Illustration

The 18th-century writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, "Live dangerously, and you live right."

He also wrote The Sorrows of Young Werther, a novel about a man who commits suicide after being rejected by the woman he loves. Afterward the public began noticing what was dubbed the "Werther fever": young men began emulating the character, creating a spike in suicide rates. Nowadays, we still observe the "Werther Effect," also known as suicide contagion. When a prominent figure in a community, such as a high-profile celebrity, dies by their own hand, sometimes it sets off a bizarre "cluster" of suicides. While the causes of suicide are complexly layered and diverse–though commonly attributed to mental illness, trauma, and societal pressures–the modern age of social media (dis)connection, celebrity, and Internet trolls means that mental health experts are noting concerning correlations between celebrity suicides and increased suicide rates, particularly within the insular, high-pressure world of K-pop.

werther effect Werther illustration

"Suicide contagion is real, which is why I'm concerned about it," said Madelyn Gould, a professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University. The phenomenon accounts for people reacting to news of suicide with suicidal behaviors or persuading others to attempt suicide. The recent deaths of Korean celebrities Sulli, 25, and Goo Hara, 28, as well as actor Cha In-ha, 27, could count as a "suicide cluster." (To be clear, the exact cause of Cha's unexpected death has yet to be released, but "suicide is strongly suspected"). Before them were Kim Jong-hyun, 27, Lee Eun Joo, 24, and Lee Hye Ryeon, 25, and other actresses and pop stars. When multiple suicides occur within the same three-month period in the same location, it's considered a cluster. At this point, it's well-known that the intensive, competitive world of K-pop (and the entertainment industry, at large) has damaging effects on mental health, self-image, and personal relationships. Young children are recruited for their talent and subjected to arduous training, pushed to meet unrealistic (and unhealthy) expectations and rigid schedules, in addition to being subject to callous public scrutiny online.

Added to that is the conservative culture of Korea, where suicide rates continue to rank among the highest of all developed nations. Strong stigma and taboo against mental illness persist in Korea. "The blame lies with South Korean society in general," said Ryu Sang-ho, a neurologist at Haedong hospital in Busan. "Many people with mental health issues are reluctant to take medication for fear of being seen as weak-minded. Mental health problems should be treated in the same way as a common cold. South Korean society needs to catch up."

Additionally, strong patriarchal values still set back Korea's gender equality. In 2018, South Korea was found to have "one of the thickest glass ceilings in the world" in regards to gender discrimination. Korea ranked 30th out of 36 nations evaluated by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the World Economic Forum ranked Korea 115th out of 149, illuminating its gender gap in terms of wage equality and earned income. Ryu added, "South Korean society is holding on to the idea that men must be respected and women are not deserving of respect, or at least not much. The media feed off that, so it's no surprise that the public don't have any sense of empathy towards these women."

So K-pop idols are caught in a terrible nexus of patriarchy, capitalism, regressive stigmas, and the dehumanizing disconnection of media, as K-pop's global takeover is largely attributed to streaming culture and the international reach of YouTube. But with such immense online popularity comes publicity problems. Christine Moutier, the chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, points out that news of an idol's suicide can particularly influence the public because "it's different from any other cause of death. When someone dies of cancer or heart disease or AIDS, you don't have to worry about messaging it wrong."

Indeed, The New York Times notes in "The Science Behind Suicide Contagion" that "publicity surrounding a suicide has been repeatedly and definitively linked to a subsequent increase in suicide, especially among young people. Analysis suggests that at least 5 percent of youth suicides are influenced by contagion." One study looked at the public's suicide rates following 98 celebrity suicides and noted a slight but consistent increase in the immediate months afterwards. In particular, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found that suicide contagion may increase due to: media coverage involving graphic details or images of grieving loved ones, repetitive reporting of the suicide, explicit description of the method of suicide, and dramatized–or even romanticized–accounts of the death as a form of escape from societal pressures or personal struggles.

Unless we as a global society can fix the plagues of online trolls, tabloid exploitation, and the money-grubbing capitalist machines known as record labels, our only recourse is to change the narrative surrounding suicide. Researchers urge the public and the press to focus on prevention resources and mental health services, such as The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), the free, 24-hour service providing support, information, and access to other resources to people experiencing suicidal ideation or anyone who thinks they know someone experiencing suicidal thoughts. While we're grappling with the Werther Effect worse than ever before, we should also remember that Goethe wrote, "Correction does much, but encouragement does more." We need to–and we can–shed the pitfalls of Korean culture, with its glittery, high-tech veneer of perfection, with self-destructive habits at its core.

CULTURE

What Makes a Troll: Why Stars Like Jesy Nelson Suffer From Social Media Abuse

Trolls made Jesy Nelson want to kill herself. Now, she's confronted her demons—and she's coming for the Internet's.

Jesy Nelson should have been on top of the world.

Instead, she was in her room, reading and rereading cruel comments from trolls on the Internet.

It was the night her band, Lil Mix, performed Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" on The X Factor and garnered sweeping praise from the judges. After the performance, the group gathered to rewatch their shining moment on YouTube. Someone suggested reading the comment section.

To Nelson's surprise, almost every comment was a critique of her appearance.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture Feature

Keith Flint and the Glorification of Suicide

A common misconception that can lead to deadly consequences.

The mad artist is a common trope: Van Gogh cut off his own ear, Virginia Woolf filled her pockets with rocks and walked into the water, Sylvia Plath put her head in the oven, Kurt Cobain shot himself, and most recently, Keith Flint, iconic frontman of The Prodigy, hung himself.

While bandmates and fans reacted to the news of Flint's suicide with shock, there were plenty of signs pointing to this eventuality. In an interview with FHM in 2015, Flint said, "I'm not saving up for anything… I'm cashing it all now. I've always had this thing inside me that, when I'm done, I'll kill myself." It's difficult to imagine a blunter expression of intention than that, which would also explain the air of inevitability, and even admiration, surrounding many people's reactions to Flint's death. Many of the tributes to the dance music pioneer posted to social media seemed to imply that this was almost a fitting death for an off-kilter artist of Flint's caliber– that creative geniuses, like Flint, inevitably give in to their demons. Some even seemed to celebrate his fate as the embodiment of the dark art he created.

Keith Flint

But this point of view is dangerous. It lends itself to the misconception that misery is a necessary symptom of creativity, leading people to romanticize mental illness. While this may seem like a better alternative to the long-fought stigma surrounding these afflictions (perceptions that mental illness is equivalent to weakness and should be ashamed of and largely ignored), it can be just as toxic. People tend to conflate despair and neurodivergence with some unique perspective on the true nature of the world.

Writer Jonathan Franzen writes in one of the essays in his collection, How to Be Alone: "Depression presents itself as a realism regarding the rottenness of the world in general and rottenness of your life in particular. But the realism is merely a mask for depression's actual essence, which is an overwhelming estrangement from humanity. The more persuaded you are of your unique access to the rottenness, the more afraid you become of engaging with the world; and the less you engage with the world, the more perfidiously happy-faced the rest of humanity seems for continuing to engage with it."

The Prodigy - Firestarter (Official Video) www.youtube.com

Essentially, Franzen is saying that because mental illness breeds isolation, those afflicted may begin to believe that they've somehow seen the "truth" of the sad nature of the world, and feel a level of superiority to people not afflicted. This can become a vicious cycle that further breeds isolation and despair, particularly when married to the idea that this special perspective is a sign of creative genius.

Instead, it's important for those in creative industries to perpetuate the idea that while creative people may be slightly more prone to mental illness, they are by no means defined by it. Van Gogh was not a great painter because of his struggles, but in spite of them, and Keith Flint's death was not a necessary byproduct of helping to create a genre, but a tragedy that robbed the world of an extraordinary musical voice way too soon.


Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.


POP⚡DUST | Read More...

Down the Rabbit Hole: Exploring Weird YouTube

Fetishizing Autism: Representation in Hollywood

5 Romantic Movie Gestures That Are Actually Super Creepy

Keith Flint, frontman for The Prodigy, has died in his Essex, England home at 49.

While authorities have not confirmed an official cause of death, fellow The Prodigy band member, Liam Howlett, wrote on the band's Instagram page: "The news is true, I can't believe I'm saying this but our brother Keith took his own life over the weekend, I'm shell shocked, fuckin angry, confused and heart broken ..... r.i.p brother Liam #theprodigy"

Few can claim to have led a life as authentically punk as Keith Flint. Raised in Essex, Keith Charles Flint was born September 17, 1969, to a troubled family. Dyslexic and poorly behaved, he was kicked out of school at 15. He met Howlett in 1989, while the two were deeply immersed in the UK acid house scene. Howlett ended up giving Flint some of his original music on a mixtape with the word "PRODIGY" scrolled across it, Flint loved his music and was soon traveling with Howlett to hype the crowds before Howlett DJed. By 1996, he was the band's frontman, and they soon released "Firestarter," which rocketed to number 1 in the UK for 3 weeks.

The song's music video, which was initially banned by the BBC for "frightening children," cemented Flint and his brightly colored mohawk as a face of the genre. In 1997, the band released The Fat of the Land, one of the most successful UK dance albums of all time.

The Prodigy - Firestarter (Official Video) youtu.be

Flint said of the band in 2015, "We were dangerous and exciting! But now no one's there who wants to be dangerous. And that's why people are getting force-fed commercial, generic records that are just safe, safe, safe." Whatever else he was, Flint was never safe. He once described himself as "a court jester meets asylum escapee," he continued, "I sometimes describe myself as like a hallway in a house: you think you're inside, but there's another door to the real me. I'll sit and wait like a predator and then I will cut you down. I will fucking cut you down to the ground." It was this erratic and sometimes violent energy that made Flint into an icon. His stage presence was electric and occasionally frightening, inviting audiences to either rise to his level and dance or go the fuck home. Nine times out of ten, they screamed and sweated along with Flint, making for some of the most exciting live performances in history.

In an official statement, The Prodigy wrote, "It is with deepest shock and sadness that we can confirm the death of our brother and best friend Keith Flint. A true pioneer, innovator and legend. He will be forever missed."


Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.



POP⚡DUST | Read More...

The Future Is Here. And It's Gay.

Is Ariana Grande Exploiting the Gay Community?

Rainbow Kitten Surprise Will Shake You Out of Your Pretension

Trending

Anthony Bourdain Dead by Suicide at Age 61

Cuisine Connoisseur and Creative Chef Found Unresponsive in French Hotel Room

CNN has confirmed that Parts Unknown host and world-traveling television personality Anthony Bourdain has died.

While in France filming for an upcoming project for the network, he took his life and was found by fellow chef and friend, Eric Ripert in his hotel room. Not only is this sad news a shock to his co-workers and family, but to fans from all over the world who have enjoyed Bourdain's work – his writing, filming, food, and overall flair and fascination for culture and "the human condition."

Born in New York City in 1956, Bourdain was a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, worked in many restaurants throughout his career – from line cook to executive chef, and starred in food- and travel-based television programs including Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, The Layover, and the show he was in the midst of filming, CNN's Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.

pixel.nymag.com

CNN released a statement regarding Bourdain's passing Friday morning, ""It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain. His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller."

travel.home.sndimg.com

Fans tuned in to Bourdain's program for his honesty, sense of adventure, curiosity, and intrigue. As exciting as he was to watch, so were the diverse people he met from all around the globe and the stories and food they shared. His no-nonsense style and the way he touched so many lives were impressive and always interesting to bear witness to. He will be sorely missed. Bourdain leaves behind one young daughter.

If you are having thoughts of suicide or care about someone who may need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).


Melissa A. Kay is a New York-based writer, editor, and content strategist. Follow her work on Popdust as well as sites including TopDust, Chase Bank, P&G, Understood.org, The Richest, GearBrain, The Journiest, Bella, TrueSelf, AMC Daycare, and more.


POP⚡DUST | Read More...

Yanny or Laurel? Do You Hear What I Hear?

Netflix and Chill...With the Obamas

Taylor Swift and Katy Perry... The Feud is Over!